HOLA! MADRID IN WINTER
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: San Juan to Madrid= 6414kms
WEATHER: 0-13 degrees sunny
Leaving San Juan on Iberia Air, we were hoping that their random strikes would not affect our flight; no strikes today but guess what? We sat in the plane at San Juan Airport for 3 hours, with one message from the pilot that there was a problem with the fuel load. We were only about 30 passnegers because the plane would not fill until we stopped at Dominican Republic after 45 minutes in the air. We said this is not happening and let's hope it is not a 15 hour delay like it was in Buenos Aires, so we felt lucky when the plane moved forward without an announcement. Obviously keeping passengers informed is not a priority!
So we arrived in Madrid nearly 3 hours late, and without much sleep, although we judged the Iberian plane quite comfortable and the food better than average. There was no individual passenger screens to choose movies or other options, just a movie played on the big screens. Oh well we were excited about our jouney through Spain and nothing could dampen that.
The Madrid Airport is very impressive, completely rebuilt about 6 years ago. We visited the tourist desk for some information and set off for the Metro with very detailed instructions from Michael,our host in Madrid on how to reach the apartment in Leganitos.
Keeping very alert because we had head lots of stories about tourist being robbed in this city, we caught 2 trains and found our way to the apartment, traversing 112 stairs from the entrance to the front door. The apartment is small and we sat a while on the sunny roof terrace, getting to know the two guys with a cup of espresso. Our room has a window to the outside and has a comfortable bed and just enough room for our 2 suitcases and backpacks. We slept really well; the apartment is extremely quiet despite being in the centre of Old Madrid which means you can explore the wonderful historic streets and architecture on foot.
We spent the afternoon wandering our vicinity, visiting some wonderful old plazas and cobbled streets.
By evening we were tired so we found a nearby restaurant and tried garlic soup, tapas dishes, local Mahou beer and some tasty pork. Sheila has been asking the waiters for their recommendations which has been very successful. Despite some judgements that Madrid people are snobby and arrogant this has not been our experience. In fact every encounter has been friendly and helpful.
Day 2 and first of all we had to finalise the problems we were having with our new Spanish sim card. The phone was registered but we were unable to get in touch with the US supplier- to cut a very long saga short by 7pm on day 2 we were able to make and receive calls.
Madrid's history starts in the 8th century and is marked with Christian, Muslim takeovers and battles, with Franco crushing modern Madrid from 1939 until 1974 when the "Madrilenos" took to the streets to party and throw off the shackles of those dark, conservative years. What is really uplifting is that after the train bombings in 2004 when 192 people died in the terrorist attack in central Madrid, the Spanish did not cower and take revenge they dusted themselves off and stood up tall and got on with life. Very different from the reaction to 9/11 in USA.
Madrid has a population of 4 million + another 2 million in the surrounding barrios/areas.
We wandered this beautiful old city and were overwhelmed by the majesty of the well maintained palaces, museums, parks and plazas. Alfonso, Frances friend who lives in Madrid took us under his wing, after dark and introduced us to the bars, tapas eating and Madrid's throbbing and endless night life; this is definitely a city that never sleeps. the streets are alive with people until 5am when you go for churros with chocolate and then go to bed.
One sad thing- 20+% of people in general and 50% of young people in Spain are unemployed; we tell everyone we meet we need you in Australia.
We have fallen in love with Madrid and the Spanish way of life after just 2 days. Knowing people in the city is a great benefit! More about Alfonso and Alberto next time...